Eagles slim home favorites vs. Falcons on Thursday Night Football

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Nick Foles’ sporadic play in the preseason may have fed the narrative about a Super Bowl hangover with the Philadelphia Eagles, but it’s also put the line for the NFL season opener in a range where Philly thrives.

The Eagles are set as 1.5-point favorites against the Falcons with a 44.5-point total on the Thursday Night Football odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Since 2008, according to the OddsShark NFL Database, the Eagles are 8-2 both straight up and against the spread as a home favorite of 2.5 or fewer points.

Last January’s playoff win against Atlanta also gave the Eagles a record of 12-4-1 ATS in their last 17 games against the Falcons.

Atlanta and quarterback Matt Ryan were 11-7 SU and 8-10 ATS overall, with the total going UNDER in their final seven games (with an average combined score of 33.86). The playoff loss against the Eagles was a microcosm of how Atlanta’s offensive whole has not been greater than the sum of its parts – which now include  rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley opposite veteran Julio Jones – since midway through last season.

While the Eagles will not have linebacker Nigel Bradham (suspension), they had the NFL’s No. 4-ranked defense last season and the unfavorable matchup might cancel out the Falcons’ trend of being 11-3 ATS in their last 14 games at night.

The Eagles went 16-3 SU and 13-6 ATS while winning their first Super Bowl title last season and that included being 9-0 SU and 7-2 ATS when favored at home. With No. 1 quarterback Carson Wentz (ACL) ruled out, the Eagles will have to rely on their defense to buy time for Foles and the offense to find a rhythm.

The Eagles will be sacrificing some explosiveness with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery sidelined (shoulder) but between running back Jay Ajayi, slot receiver Nelson Agholor, tight end Zach Ertz and others, the Eagles have no end of ways to move the ball in sustained chunks of yardage.

The total has gone UNDER in 10 of the Falcons’ last 13 games against the Eagles, with an average combined score of 40.31. The total has gone OVER in seven of the Eagles’ last nine games on a Thursday night.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Looking back at the 50th anniversary of The ‘Heidi’ Game

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Half a century ago, what former NBC broadcast supervisor Dick Cline believed to be just “another week of the NFL,” came an event that would forever alter how people experience live sports. It’s been 50 years since the famous ‘Heidi game’, a historic matchup between the American Football League rivals the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders on November 17th, 1968.

The showdown aired live on NBC and was famously nicknamed after Heidi, a movie about a young Swiss orphan, unceremoniously cut in to the game’s live broadcast. Cline was in charge of making sure the children’s movie aired on time – even if there was 1:05 seconds left in the game and the Jets are up 32-29.

That week in particular, NBC, the sales department and the telephone company confirmed that the 7:00-9:00 pm time slot had been sold to Timex. That slot was to be used to air Heidi and Cline was under strict instruction to make sure it aired at its allotted time.

“When the sales department said at 7:00 o’clock we have to go to Heidi, we didn’t think anything of it because a game never ran long, ” Cline said, as NFL games never ran over 7:00 pm in the past.

At 7 sharp, just as scheduled, Cline aired Heidi. Not long after, phone calls flooded the station, causing NBC’s switchboards to blow out. There was such a large volume of angry callers waiting to demand the game be put back on that the station required new fuses to keep the switchboards running. Many people called, but no one at the station could answer.

When asked if there were any complaints in particular that he could remember, Cline said that because of the rate at which the calls were coming in that caused issues with the switchboards, the calls couldn’t even be answered.

“They didn’t do a whole lot of talking,” Cline said jokingly.

One of the many incoming calls came from NBC’s president at the time, Julian Goodman. Goodman was eager for the game to be back on air and made efforts to contact Cline using a private line, but by then, there was nothing Cline could do.

“In 1968, there were no satellites, there were no cellphones. I had no way of getting back to the telephone company which was controlling the lines and telling them to go back to the game.”

As some viewers sat back and enjoyed Heidi, the Jets ended up blowing their lead. The Raiders scored two touchdowns in just nine seconds, winning 43-32. That’s when the wrath from fans really surfaced.

“They were more unnerved that not only did they not see the last minute and a half of the game, the Jets lost the game.”

Cline had been prepped by the network on how to handle situations where time runs over, but the Heidi game was the first time they experienced that. That game changed the standard for televised football games today, where the protocol now is to air the game until it is complete.

Looking back, Cline has no regrets about the decision he made to air Heidi instead of finishing the game. Though he didn’t see it as such at the time, that very choice changed the course of televised sports.

How Tom Brady is like Rupert Murdoch

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“What’s different about this year?” I asked owner Robert Kraft in his office two hours before the game. “What’s new?”

Kraft, 77, struggled to answer, because he couldn’t think of anything exactly new or different. But he answered in a bit of a different way.

“There are two people I know accomplishing far more than people their age would normally accomplish. [News Corp. CEO] Rupert Murdoch—he’s a guy going on 88, and he’s still making brilliant business deals. I know guys 10 years younger than me who are just hanging on till retirement. And there’s Tommy, who’s still playing great football at 41, and he’s going to keep going. Forty-one, and three Super Bowls in the last four years, and he’s still going.

“What these two men have accomplished, it’s just sick. They defy the normal rules of business, the normal rules of life.”

“Rupert Murdoch!” Brady said when I told him post-game, and he phewed out a whisp of air.

This game was a struggle for Brady after a brilliant up-tempo opening drive of 59 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. But he rebounded in the fourth quarter for two touchdown drives, including a 55-yard insurance touchdown to Josh Gordon, one of those players the Patriots find and no other team can. “It’s the culture,” tight end Dwayne Allen said. “You come here, you’ve got to fit in.” Gordon, suspended multiple times by the Browns in a disappointing career in Cleveland, has shut up and worked here—so far.

It was just as much a struggle for Rodgers, again betrayed by a huge fourth-quarter turnover. Eventually these mistakes—the misbegotten Ty Montgomery kickoff-return fumble in L.A. last week, the Patriots’ Lawrence Guy stripping Aaron Jones on the first play of the fourth quarter in Foxboro—could get Mike McCarthy fired. For now, they’ve gotten the Pack to below .500 at 3-4-1. But the Brady-Rodgers duel was just OK; neither threw for 300 yards, and in a year when touchdown passing is through the roof, they combined for three scoring passes.

After the game, though, Brady, who broke the record for combined regular-season and post-season passing yardage, wasn’t much of a stat guy. He never has been. Player after player walked by him toward the New England night as he talked to me, and he pumped them up, telling them how great they played.

He was particularly glowing around Gordon, who scored once, and Cordarrelle Patterson, the 6-2, 230-pound receiver/returner-turned-running back. In the first 88 games of Patterson’s NFL life, he’d never run the ball 10 times in a game. Last week in Buffalo, he ran it 10 times. And Sunday night, 11 more. “We thought we had good depth at running back and we did at one point in the year,” Belichick said. “But depth in August and depth in November are two different things.”

Brady told me: “A lot of guys have watched us play for a long time. I think they know they’re going to an organization that it’s really just about winning, about being selfless. If you gotta play running back, like CP [Patterson], you play running back. If you gotta block because you’re a receiver, you block. You gotta run a clearing route, you clear.”

Murdoch at 87 is ancient for a big deal-maker. Brady is simply old for football, not ancient, because he and guys like Drew Brees, 39, keep raising the bar. But he still sounds very much like a long-termer Sunday night, reveling in this win. “I’d like to go till I’m 45,” Brady said. “I know I said that hundred times, and no one believes me. But I mean, I feel good. I could go play another game tomorrow. I know what to do. It’s fun. What else would you rather do than run out in front of 70,000 people and throw a football?”

Editor’s Note: Read the rest of Football Morning in America here.